Hands-On Beauty: teaching for creativity

Art education has been impacted by rhe standards and testing culture like all other disciplines and the teaching has been focused on things that are concrete (i.e. elements of art, art history foundational skills) and responsive to testing and assessment. Why is there such a disconnect between creativity and art education? Why are schools challenged to cultivate creativity? How can things improve?

I believe art education needes to focus on developing learners that think like artist, learners who are creative, curious, seek questions, develop ideas and play; we need to be much more intentional about how we communicate art's (critical) value and especially how we teach for creativity.

The Torrance creativity test, which has been administered for decades, has now shown, since the 1990s, a decline especially in the ages 6-12 in the United States. It is partly a mess of our making. As a parent, I often hear adults saying things to children; "Oh, look how well you've drawn that horse, it's so realistic. You are so creative." These messages are problematic because they focus on cliche notions of what creativity stands for.

Educators at the forefront of art education are "teaching for creativity" aka embodying the habits the artists employ:

  • comfort with ambiguity
  • idea generation
  • transdisciplinary (research)

As an example, craft projects generally involve children following directions to reproduce an adult’s idea and require no original thinking. Crafts are meant to be useful, practical, or educational - subject to testing and assessment techniques.

Collage, on the other hand, is very important to children because through "lessons in creativity" it helps them to develop their reasoning and problem solving skills as well as help develop fine motor skills such as hand-eye coordination and give a boost to their creativity and imagination.

Art practices, particularly Process Art, allow children to experiment with their own ideas. By working with art materials and no preconceived outcome, children are encouraged to:

  • Think openly
  • Create new meaning
  • Be more tolerant of others’ differences
  • Have the courage to take creative risks